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Sony alpha 1 announced: 8K Video and 50MP Full-Frame Sensor

Big megapixels, crazy fast fps, Real-time Eye AF, and 8K video for $6,499

sony alpha a1
Image by Sony

Sony just unveiled their new flagship mirrorless camera – the Alpha 1, boasting a 50 megapixel full-frame sensor, 30fps, and 8K/30p video. Pre-orders start at authorised dealers such as B&H tomorrow, Jan 27th. The Sony alpha 1 is priced at $6,498 USD.

Just days ago, Sony teased today’s announcement, and I tried my luck to guess some of the main features of the new A1.

Here’s a brief TL:DR Quick Features Summary:

  • New 50.1 megapixel full-frame stacked Exmor RS CMOS sensor
  • Upgraded BIONZ XR image processing with 8x more processing power
  • Blackout- free, continuous shooting at up to 30fps
  • Electronic shutter flash sync up to 1/200 sec.
  • 1/400 sec flash sync mechanical shutter
  • 9.44 million-dot OLED Quad-XGA electronic viewfinder
  • Improved Real-time Eye AF for humans and animals
  • New Real-time Eye AF for birds
  • 8K/30p 10-bit video recording
  • 4K/120fps in 10bit 4:2:2 slow-motion
  • 5.8K Super 35 mode for video, 4K/60p
  • 4K/60p RAW output via HDMI to external recorder
  • Dual SD and CFexpress Type A cards
  • 5-axis optical in-body image stabilization 
  • S-Cinetone colour matrix from the FX9 and Sony FX6
  • S-log3, S-log2, HLG, HLG2, HLG3 picture profiles

To my surprise (without giving myself too much credit), I was actually right about the 8K video feature, new 50 megapixel sensor and the fact that the alpha 1 is a more video-oriented, higher megapixel version of the a9 II. Which also borrows some key video features of the Sony a7s III.

Sony A1 – 50MP full-frame and 8K Video Beast!

Nevertheless, the new A1 is definitely in a price bracket (and performance league) of its own. And undoubtedly a pro camera targeting professional photographers looking for a super-reliable tool that gives them the best of both worlds – stills and video.

A “halo product” for the Sony mirrorless imaging division, the A1 (model Sony ILCE-1) has quite a few jaw-dropping features, which I’ll attempt to summarize below.

Pre-order the Sony Alpha 1 at B&H

Sony alpha 1 front
Images by Sony

50MP stacked full-frame CMOS sensor

At the heart of the new Alpha 1 beats a new heart – a state-of-the-art 50.1-megapixel full-frame stacked Exmor RS image sensor, boasting up to 120 AF/AE calculations per second, and capable of spitting out 8K 30p 10-bit 4:2:0 video (a first for any Sony mirrorless camera). More on the 8K video capabilities of the Alpha 1 in the video section a  bit further below. 

In addition, the Alpha 1 borrows the same 9.44 million dot OLED electronic viewfinder from the a7s III. Moreover, this EVF has a refresh rate of up to 240 fps, eliminating black out.

Another interesting feature in the new A1 is the addition of a new Lossless Compress RAW option in stills mode. Other available RAW options include Compressed RAW and Uncompressed RAW photos. 

Superfast Continuous Shooting at Up to 30fps

The monstrous 50.1-megapixel sensor paired with a large memory buffer make it possible to shoot up to 155 full-frame compressed RAW images or 165 full-frame JPEG images at up to 30fps. And that’s with electronic shutter while maintaining full AF and AE tracking performance. To say that this is impressive would be an understatement. 

With the insane calculation speed of up to 120 AF/AE per second, the Alpha 1 can maintain focus with high accuracy even for fast moving subjects. It can even automatically adjust exposure, even with sudden changes in brightness. This is something that wildlife and sports photographers will definitely appreciate. 

Real-Time Eye AF for Humans, Animals, and even Birds

When it comes to the autofocusing system – the A1 comes with 759 phase detection points that cover approximately 92% of the image area. 

Sony’s advanced Real-time Eye AF improves detection performance by 30% over the a9 range, thanks to the powerful next-gen BIONZ XR image processors.

Furthermore, in addition to improved Real-time Eye AF for humans and animals, the Alpha 1 also includes, for the first time in an alpha camera, Real-time Eye AF for birds. Optimized algorithms ensure that tracking is maintained even if a sitting bird suddenly takes flight, or the framing suddenly changes. 

hdmi, ethernet, lan, flash sync, cfexpress sd ports sony a1
Ports, Connectivity, and Media slots

Connectivity, Media Cards, and Power Options

Similar to the Sony a7s III, the new Alpha 1 gets dual media slots that both support UHS-II SDXC cards and the new CFexpress Type A memory cards.

The camera has a beefy durable magnesium alloy chassis, and is powered via the familiar NP-FZ100 battery. And just like the a7s III, we can see a full-size HDMI Type-A output, and USB PD (Power Delivery) support, allowing higher power to be supplied from an external source such as a power bank.  

Sony a1 no-flip-screen
Image by Sony

Sony Alpha 1: 4K and 8K Video Features

First things first – there is no flippy screen on the A1… I think this is a huge missed opportunity for Sony; the flip-out screen of the As7 III would have looked right at home at the back of the Alpha 1. 

It looks like Sony is rehashing the same tilt-up display style from their a9 range, which probably won’t be such a big deal to many pro photographers, but still, it would have been nice to have a fully-articulating display. 

Full-Frame 8K/30p in 10bit 4:2:0

Many of you will be quick to point out that the Canon EOS R5 can already shoot 8K RAW video internally and the new alpha 1 can’t. However, recording 8K in a more compressed 10bit 4:2:0 codec has it’s benefits – smaller and more manageable file sizes and less chance of overheating. Sony has officially rated the 8K video for 30 minutes without overheating, however this remains to be independently tested. 

Nevertheless, I am sure that the heat-dissipating design ported from the alpha 7s III will also help with keeping the a1 cool, while recording 8K.

The 8K video codec in the alpha 1 is XAVC-HS which uses the H.265/HEVC compression. In addition, the 8K video is full-frame 

See an 8K video sample shot on the new alpha 1 camera below:

4K/120fps Slow-Motion in 10bit and IBIS

Another borrowed feature from the a7sIII is the 4K/120fps 10-bit 4:2:2 recording. This slow-motion options is available in both the more efficient Long GOP inter-frame compression or the higher quality Intra (All-I) intra-frame compression. And as with the A7s III, there are now 4K DCI options, only UHD (3840 x 2160).

The 4K/120fps option uses a 10% crop in the sensor area.

Other notable recording options include 4K (UHD) up to 60fps in 10bit 4:2:2 XAVC-S I, and Full HD up to 240fps super-slow motion.

And last, but not least, the A1 also comes with 5-Axis In-body Image Stabilization with Active Mode as seen previously in the A7s III. 

S-Cinetone and 16bit-RAW* output via HDMI

However, unlike the A7s III, the new Alpha 1 gets the highly desired S-Cinetone picture profile, which gives you a nice looking Rec.709 footage straight from the camera with minimal need for post-production.

This is a fantastic profile for quick turnaround situations, and definitely a feature that FX9 and Sony FX6 users love using. 

In the demo presentation livestream, Sony also says the A1 is capable of outputting 16bit RAW to an external recorder via HDMI.

Currently, Atomos recorders such as the Shogun 7 and Ninja V support raw recording from FX6, FX9 and A7s III. However, at the moment there is no official support for A1 raw yet. 

*compatible recorders yet to be announced. Recording will most likely be 16bit linear RAW recorded as 12bit LOG, same as on the A7sIII, FX6, and FX9.

Pricing and Availability 

The new Sony a1 flagship is priced at $6,499 and scheduled to ship in March. 

You can pre-order the Alpha 1 from tomorrow, January 27th from B&H and other authorised Sony dealers. 

To learn more details and get full specifications head over to Sony.

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